I didn’t Pass French In School, The beauty of the Dutch teacher didn’t allow us to concentrate - Paul Ukpabio's Blog


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Saturday, 16 March 2019

I didn’t Pass French In School, The beauty of the Dutch teacher didn’t allow us to concentrate

-   Prof Adetokunbo Olusegun Fabamwo (LASUTH Chief Medical Director)

If you are lucky to meet Professor Adetokunbo Fabanwo in a lighter mood, then you are sure of good company, good laughter, share fond memories and of course, wisdom talk!

He is commonly referred to as a doctor’s doctor! A Professor of Obstetrics and gynaecology, who a few months ago was seconded to Lagos State University Teaching Hospital as The Chief Medical Director from Lagos State University College of Medicine.

Fabamwo.makes knowledge look easy. He makes being an academic seem fun and he combines work, creativity and pleasure with ease. Hear him: I work hard and I play hard. He is the Chairman of Yoruba Tennis Club and a member of many other social clubs. He spoke to Paul Ukpabio about his journey to the top, and some of the challenges in our social lifestyle.

In what way will you say that your early background influenced the person that you are today?
I was brought up by parents who were teachers. In those days teachers were the epitome of morality. They instilled leadership qualities in young children. In those days, quite a number of parents deliberately took their children to stay with headmasters and teachers so that they will be brought up to have leadership qualities. So to be a child of two teachers as parents was indeed a great advantage for me as a child. Ofcourse we had other children staying with us in our home. We all grew up together under strict upbringing. we had morning prayers and evening prayers. You dared not be absent in any of those prayers. We woke up with designated house chores. It could be kitchen work, or cleaning the compound. Everyone had. You had to quickly finish yours, eat breakfast and off to school. It was a regimental upbringing. Also our parents were morally correct and in that sense they did not accept any defiant behaviour. Any evidence of defiance was heavily visited with the cane. They did not spare the rod with us or even their wards that is those who stayed with us. So that made me to be focus on my academic and I had a good result and went on to a good secondary school.

Were your parents working in the same school?
No they were not. My father was a primary school head teacher. My mother was just a teacher in one of the other primary schools. In those days, teaching was a little bit prestigious because not many people had the prerequisite to teach. The few we had, were well respected.

Where did you grow up?
I started my childhood in Ijebu Ode. I am of Ijebu Ode parentage, so I grew up there until I was four when my father had to travel abroad for one year on a a diploma course in education. Thereafter my mother chose to relocate to Ibadan where I had the rest of my childhood. By the time my father came back from the UK, he tried to find a job in Ibadan but it didn't work out. So he came to Lagos where he found a job and settled down. Invariably, we had two homes. My mother was in Ibadan and my father was in Lagos. We shuttled. I liked Lagos, and I spent more time in Lagos. Anytime we were on holiday, we came to Lagos.

Did that arrangement decide the schools you later attended?
I applied to be admitted to Igbobi College in Lagos. I attended the 3-Day interview that they used to do then and passed. I was given admission. My father out of his meagre resources, paid the required 9 pounds deposit. But I also went for the one week interview at Government College Ibadan. I passed. The only deciding factor that did not make me to go to school at Igbobi College was the amount of beans I ate during the 3-Day interview period at Igbobi College. It was beans morning, afternoon and night and I made up my mind that there was no way I would attend such a school. So when I got admission to Government College Ibadan which was equally a good school, I opted for that school because during the one week interview at Government College Ibadan, we were treated to a lot of delicacies which included rice and plantain, fish, bread and butter and sausage.

But your dad had already paid the required 9 pounds. Did you tell your dad it was because of the beans that you opted not to go to school at Igbobi College?
 (Laughs) No, I couldn't tell him that. My dad probably would have objected! When the Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo came to our club The Yoruba Tennis Club, Onikan, Lagos,  about two years ago, I had to remind him of this story. He attended Igbobi College so during my speech I made reference to why I did not attend Igbobi College and they laughed and replied that they were used to the beans. That they managed to eat it throughout. And I do not have any regret at all, because Government College Ibadan turned out to be a school where leadership was actually taught. And most of us that attended the school, went on to assume leadership positions in different spheres of life later. 

What decided for you that it had to be medicine?
I will say it was my secondary school because in those days in Government College, Ibadan, you either became a doctor or you became an engineer. That was the mindset. We didn't have arts A Level. The A Level we had was in the sciences. So you were conditioned to be a doctor if you were interested in the biological sciences and an engineer if you were interested in the physical sciences. A lot of us who loved biological science felt we should be doctors and we had role models there then people like Dr Bayo Banjo, Dr Doherty, Dr Olusanya and others. We looked up to them and wanted to be like them. So it wasn't difficult for me to decide on being a doctor plus the fact that my parents wanted a doctor in our family. So I was highly encouraged by my parents.

Was it easy for your parents financially when you decided to study medicine?
In those days, life was easy, you did not need to have rich parents to be able to attend university. I attended the University of Ife as the first set of intakes in 1971. It was in the Western region but Federal. The tuition was free. All we needed to pay for was a stipend for accommodation. That time we had the ticket system. You could buy for a month or just what you could afford. It wasn't that expensive. But I couldn't afford some of the luxuries which some of our friends could afford them. I didn't have a car; I could not travel for what they used to call summer in those days. Some of our rich friends whenever we had a long holiday, their parents bought ticket for them to go abroad and they came back with new shirts and trousers to oppress us! So I couldn't afford that throughout the time I was in the university because I didn't go on summer! But thank God that afterwards, I had gone on several summer. Those were the little differences, Basically we were all equal. Then we also had the indigent students. Yes, there were some students who were really indigent. They were worse off than we were. Even then life was not that difficult for them. At the cafeteria in those days, with your meal ticket it meant for breakfast for instance, it meant that you got either corn beef stew or sardine stew and the egg that was the only difference, there was enough bread for everybody, you could take as many as you wanted to eat. There was jam and butter free for everyone. There was also beverage in a big jug that was also available. The indigent students were also usually there to take as much bread as they could take with a big mug to load as much as they could of the beverage. They also had the butter and bread so they were usually good to go. The difference between them and us who had the meal ticket was that in addition to all that they had, we got egg and stew for our bread.

Today you are a professor of medicine; did you feel outstanding when you were in school? And was that the deciding factor for you to go ahead and get to the apex of medicine as a profession?
No, I didn't. And I will tell you why. At the Government College of Ibadan, the intakes were the best of the best. So I was in the middle of the brightest boys from different secondary schools in Western region and beyond. You could be a star from your primary school. Even there I wasn’t a star, that’s because I attended a primary school that was reputed for carrying out extra coaching for students mainly directed to help them get into good secondary schools. The school was Ebenezer African Church Primary School, Oke Ado, Ibadan. We entered school at 7am and closed at 7pm. The school used to close officially between 1 and 2 pm, we had an hour of rest, then went back to class for extra coaching till 7pm. When we got to Government College Ibadan, again I found out that I was in the middle of very brilliant boys. So one just did well, it is not as if my head swagged more above the rest. But then I had intelligence and my school certificate result was good. I had grade A in all my subjects except for French where we had a very pretty Dutch lady who did not allow the boys to concentrate! We were all busy admiring her, we were not listening much to what she was teaching us. We were fantasizing over her, so most of us failed French. However, with my grades, it was not difficult to get into university.

Some doctors came out of medical school and became just doctors. But you insisted that you had to reach the top of the profession. What led to that?
There’s a story behind that. We were at the University of Ife as pioneer medical students and again most of my course mates were bright boys and girls from good schools like Christ College Ado Ekiti, Loyola College, Kings College Lagos, St. Gregory’s College, Igbobi College and so on. We graduated and did house job. I was lucky to have done my house job at the University College Hospital in Ibadan, where I met with giants in different specialties of medicine which made great impression on us at that time. Then I went for Youth Service at the Air Force Medical Centre Kaduna where we were just enjoying life. We didn’t do serious professional practice. One day a gentleman called Dr Onuola Adewunmi came to visit Kaduna and we met. I was asked about my ambition after Youth Service. I told him I was probably going to go into private practice, make money and have a good life. He then advised me that it was a good ambition. He told me that the way medicine was going at that time, that it would be nice if I considered being a specialist. I was asked what I would love to specialise in. Ofcourse I had gone through all specialties during house job and I liked to be an Obstetrician and gynaecologist. Incidentally, that was what he was. Then he told me to come back to UCH Ibadan that they will get me into the specialist training programme. I went back there after the youth service for the residency programme where again I was working with icons like Professor Vincent Aimaku of blessed memory, Professor Wole Akande who later went to WHO, Professor Dapo Ladipo a reproductive health expert, Professor Adelusi, Professor Nilander, these were giants in Obstetrics and gynecology and these were my teachers. That was how the spirit of academics was planted in me.

What happened afterwards?
Unfortunately, after I finished my programme, there was no vacancy in Ibadan for a lecturer job. I weighed my options. Also at that time, my wife was having problems finding a job in Ibadan despite the fact that she had a Masters degree in Business Administration in addition to her first degree. So we took a decision to relocate to Lagos. I picked up a job as a consultant in the employ of Lagos State Civil Service. I thought that was the end of my academics but luckily the Lagos State College of Medicine came to be after many years that I had left academics. I made sure that even during those years in the civil service, I did not distance myself from my academic colleagues and from academic activities. I was an examiner in the post graduate colleges, I was doing research and publishing papers in reputable journals. So by the time the College of Medicine started in Lagos, it was easy for me to make a decision despite the fact that I had lost 19 years in public service sojourn, I went back to academics. Those years were not empty, I was able to reach the top as a pioneer director in clinical services and training. I worked hard on getting back to academics and one of the milestone research I did with my friend Professor Ireti Akinola was discovering a way of treating uterus fibroid without doing major surgery. We published it in medical journals. We were the first in the world to use that technique to treat uterus fibroid. For that, in 2005 we won the Sierra Prize for the best published article from the  developing world in International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. We won many other prizes at workshops and conferences for that same work that we did. As a matter of fact, we are renowned nationally and internationally for that work. And a lot of other gynaecologists are now using that method to treat uterus fibroid without using major surgery. To the glory of God, I finally reached the top in academics in 2013 when I became a professor.

At what point did marriage come in?
In my university days I was just enjoying myself. The issue of marriage did not even occur to me. We were medical students and girls liked us a lot. We had our good share of the ladies at that time. Even when I finished from medical school, I didn't think of marriage. I met my wife during house job. But it was not that I saw her as my wife. No, it was to me just a continuation of my activities as a jolly good fellow. But along the line, I found out that she was a God's gift to me. And I thank God that I did not miss her, or dispensed with her as I dispensed with many other ladies without giving them consideration. I think God gave me a revelation that she will be the woman that will make me happy. And I thank God that I married her. Marriage occurred about two years after Youth Service, but the seed of marriage took place during the horsemanship days.

Doctors are known to be quiet and reserved but here you are, you are almost even more popular in the social scenes than being a doctor and it looks like you have had an equal early background in socials. where did it commune from?
I made up my mind early in life that I must have a balanced life. So I have always had a good steady spiritual life, a vibrant social life and a qualitative life. Of course I have an accomplished professional life as well as an accomplished academic life. Those are the five aspects of my life that I hold equally dearly to my heart. So I work hard and I play hard. I am a member of some social clubs including the Yoruba Tennis Club where I am the current Chairman of the club. I love life and i do my work.

How do you separate it to make sure that one aspect does not clash with the other? 
It is balancing. For instance unless there is a wedding on Saturday, I do not go out of my house. On such days, I prefer to spend the time with my family, children and wife at home. Church is a priority on Sunday and for fifteen years, I was a chorister in my church. Yes I was singing in the choir. That was Our Saviours Church, Tafawa Balewa Square. And I used to have a private practice professionally. So it has been a matter of balancing.

Tell us about your first car as a doctor.
The first car I rode was a loan from my late uncle Mr Kola Odubanjo. As soon as I finished from Medical School, he called me to come over and pick a Peugeot
504 from his garage. He said I should use it until I buy my car. It was the first car I rode and had good fun memories. It was LSA 9600. But there after, within about three months, we got a car loan from the hospital. In those days, as soon as you finished as a doctor, usually you got a car loan. And it was N48OO. But the car that I wanted to buy was a Fiat 132 Clematizata. It was a new product. It was aloofly flashy car, a wonder on wheels. We used to do the whole stretch of then new Ibadan to Lagos expressway in 30 just minutes with my Fiat. Toll gate to toll gate in 30 minutes at 160 on the dash board. (Laughs) We lived the life. The car was N6500 and my car loan could not cover it. So i went to my father to ask for a loan. SO the teacher that he was told me to do a document showing how i would pay back the loan. We did the document and throughout the rest of my house job which was 9 months, I paid regularly according to schedule but defaulted when i went for Youth Service. By the time I returned we started the conversation I had to tell him him that some fathers give this thing free to their children that he should forget about the rest of the loaned money (Laughs). So the man cleft me alone. I still awe him the balance of my car loan even though the man is dead now.  I enjoyed my Fiat. It was a good car.

Also you are a doctor who is a trendy dresser, where did that come from too?
I have always been a power dresser since secondary school. We were encouraged to dress well at the Government College Ibadan. The school paid great attention to our dress sense. A lot of all developed the habit there and then. I believe that the way you appear to people will usually dictate how they react to you. More so, my profession as an Obstetrician and gynaecologist because we deal with women most of the time. And when you deal with women, you are dealing with things of sensitive nature. They must be able to have confidence in you. If you are shabbily dressed and you what to attend to a woman, you want to touch her private parts, you can imagine how she will react. On the other hand, she will have more confidence in the doctor examining her if he is well dressed. Also I love wearing suits ties, red ties many people people identify me with my red or wine coloured ties. I love to wear our native clothes too.

As a doctor that is social you have to drink alcohol. So have you been drinking alcohol for that long a time?
(Laughs) Ofcourse when I was younger, I drank and even smoked! When I was in Dublin as part of my training, I developed the art of smoking cigarettes. But what stopped me was an encounter i had with my late uncle Mr Kola Odubanjo. I went to his office he was a manager at the co-operative bank in Ibadan then. On that day I was feeling kinky, I had just returned from Ireland and I went to his office with a big fat cigar between my lips. Immediately he saw me, he had a look of shock in his face and he drove me out of his office after verbally abusing the hell out of me with words that went straight to my heart. He told that what did i think I was and who did I think I am. That wasn't I just a doctor? That I should through the damn thing away and never come to his office dressed like that again! I felt bad, I felt little and I felt humiliated. I looked at myself and asked, what was I trying to prove, have I arrived, and i replied myself that I had not really 'arrived'. I was young doctor with a just a little money in my bank account. So i stopped cigars and smoking but didn't stop beer. But right now, i don't drink again even though I am a member of social clubs and Chairman of Yoruba Tennis Club.

Don't your friends at the club feel bad now when you sit with them and you don't drink?
Ha, people have their different callings. It is not everybody in the club that drinks. A lot of people don't drink or drink some other milder things. Especially when you get older certain things occur to you and you want to stop some habits. So these days for my set, when we sit at the table, you just see bottles of water (laughs) soda water and all sorts of water. At this time, people are getting more concerned about their health and well being and excessive consumption of alcohol is no longer fashionable and smoking has virtually gone out of line. Anyway our club Yoruba Tennis Club is a no smoking club.

If you were not a doctor, what else would you have loved to be?
Oh i would have loved to be an actor. I love to act in fact when I was in the university, I belonged to a drama group and anytime we had our holidays I joined them and I got roles. At secondary school too i was in the dramatic society and Government College Ibadan had a good reputation for theatre. We had a good principal Mr D. J. Bullock a British who loved theater. Bode Showande, Femi Osofisan were people that the principal encouraged to go further in that direction. Of course Professor Wole Soyinka is an old student of Government College Ibadan, but I don't think Mr D. J. Bullock was there at the time he was in the school. We had a tradition for dramatic arts then. I'm still thinking that in my older days I will go into it now that there is a lot of money in it.

Your advice to youths
Things are not easy for youths today as it was for us then. We had a good life despite the fact that our parents came from humble backgrounds. These days to be able to get good education, you must have rich parents to send you to a good university or a private university, because a public university will go on strike and you are not sure when you will graduate. nonetheless, youths should be focused on education and nurse entrepreneurial spirit. That is what we didn't have. We were brought up to believe that the white collar jobs will always be there. They are no longer there waiting. Anybody now without additional means of income would not have a good life. So be focused and be entrepreneurial along the way.


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